According to multiple sources on Twitter, the Rangers have agreed to terms with 33-year-old righthander Doug Fister on a big league contract, pending a physical. Chris Cotillo (MLB Daily Dish) reports that the deal is for one year at $3.5 million plus a $4.5 million club option ($500,000 buyout) for 2019. Each year reportedly includes an additional $500,000 in incentives, and undisclosed escalators can kick the 2019 option up to $7 million — making the max value of the contract either $11 million or $11.5 million over two years.
Fister, whose run of seven straight post-season Quality Starts (2011–2014) began with a strong 7.1-inning effort (two runs on seven hits and no walks) in Game 3 of the Rangers-Tigers ALCS in 2011, was picked up on waivers by Boston in late June of this year (after three AAA appearances for the Angels), and he had a seven-game run with the Red Sox (July 31-September 6) in which he went 5–2, 2.79 (.194/.257/.286) with 44 strikeouts and 14 walks in 48.1 innings. That stretch, in which Fister fired a Quality Start in six starts out of seven, included a complete-game, one-hitter in Cleveland — with Francisco Lindor leading off the bottom of the first with a home run, and no Indian reaching safely after that.
Interestingly, Fister was one of the last free agents to sign a year ago — not reaching an agreement with the Angels until mid-May — and is the first big league free agent to sign with a new club this winter. The Red Sox are credited with making changes to the righty’s delivery that brought about a jump in velocity which helped to produce the highest strikeout rate (8.3 per nine innings) of the nine-year veteran’s career, his lowest hit rate since 2014, and the highest groundball rate since 2013.
This isn’t going to be the move that makes the cover of the program. Fister isn’t here to replace Yu Darvish. He’s likely this off-season’s version of the Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross signings a year ago, with the hope obviously that he’s as productive at or near the back of the Rangers’ rotation as Cashner was — at less than half the guarantee.
And another thing to think about, though this certainly isn’t the plan: If Fister is having a solid year in the Texas rotation and the season goes in the wrong direction, the inexpensiveness of this deal could make him an attractive trade piece in July, especially given that he’d have an extra year of affordable club control.